Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thank You Note to Georgetown--It's Been Fun!

For the past two months I’ve lived in a very lovely little city. I’ve posted photos and tried to write lyrically about Georgetown. God knows it deserves all the adjectives I could possibly bring to bear upon it.

I’ve met some unbelievably kind people, all of whom speak my native tongue, and have found several gorgeous little spots to relax in. Here are my favorites.

On the backpacker oasis of Chulia Street is a hotel that up until recently was one of the disheveled examples of decaying grandeur for the frugal traveler. It has been renovated to financial heights far above my own fiscal capabilities but I found that its breakfast buffet is like a tutorial in Penang’s culinary history. The Yeng Keng Hotel was built in the mid-1800s as an Anglo-Indian bungalow and became a budget hotel in the 1900s. Now 5 million ringgit and over a century later, it is a stunning place to sit and ease into the day. Manager Jacky Cheung takes great pains to bring in the best of the BabaNonya delicacies that travelers might otherwise never taste, and the coffee he has chosen is almost the best I’ve had in Penang.

It would indubitably be the best if the guy at Fatty Loh’s Chicken Rice on Nagore Street hadn’t told me about siTigun Café, where Indonesian Tigun Wibisana retired from backstage work on Broadway to roast coffee beans in Georgetown. (Tigun is beyond a doubt still a New Yorker—he knows his smoked salmon and you should not pass it up when you’re there—comes with a very good croissant and just the right amount of cream cheese on the side.) Sinking into the faded comfort of an aged sofa, surrounded by Broadway posters and listening to jazz, I go there every week religiously. I buy beans to take home and have lunch and sit in one of the prettiest spots I’ve found in Penang

It would be the prettiest if a debonair little dog hadn’t lured me through the door of the place she is in charge of—Amelie Café on Armenian Street. It is incredible how much beautiful stuff has been artfully arranged in a dark and delightful little room that is certainly bigger than a breadbox—but not by much. The owners are clearly artists and are fabulous conversationalists and also make the best lassi in the city. It’s almost my favorite drink on the island of Penang—with absolutely no sugar involved.

It would be my favorite if I hadn’t ended up one day at the Jolly Café on Masjid Kapitan Keling or Pitt Street. I went in because of the name and because it is open-air on two sides with a great view of sidewalk strollers. I go back as often as possible because of the nutmeg juice, made from fresh nutmeg fruit and more aromatic than sweet. No other place has measured up to that standard of nutmeg juice for me, and although the Jolly Café isn’t as pretty as my other refuges—oh hell it is not pretty at all—it’s been another once a week staple in my Georgetown incarnation.

As has been the Trois Canon Café on Chulia Street, because the lady behind the counter is one of the kindest people I have met in my wanderings through this city and because it is one of the few diners in a classical mode that I’ve found in SE Asia, and because the hot buttered toast with kaya (coconut jam) is superlative comfort food. And who doesn’t need comfort once in a while? Even in Georgetown


Ebriel said...

Will have to try out one or two of the places once I get back!

janet brown said...

Also the sate stall on the Malay side at Esplanade--but I've only found it open at night--so good--